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Yoga Instructors Unite!


This may be the most relaxed and meditative union in American history.

Cool! Sarah Jones had filed an article about this a couple months ago. Quick excerpt:

One of the nation’s top yoga studio chains takes its name from a simple slogan. The company calls itself YogaWorks, according to its website, because yoga works for every body. But that inclusive message, employees say, doesn’t extend to the company’s labor practices — and in order for it to live up to its lofty ideals, it must change. Now they’re ready to force it to try. Citing low pay, irregular scheduling, and inadequate benefits, they’ve organized the first union of yoga instructors in the country.

“Yoga teachers, by my calculation, are in New York City and other places are earning under what’s considered the poverty line,” said one woman, who supports the union and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “I’m sure that students, if they knew that, would be shocked.”

On Monday morning, around 100 teachers from the chain’s four New York City locations asked management to recognize a union with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday. Organizers stress that their issues aren’t just YogaWorks-specific, and are also endemic to the industry as a whole: Teachers are typically independent contractors, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and precariousness, and usually paid per class, which means they have to piece together multiple gigs in order to make ends meet.

Though YogaWorks classifies teachers as employees, which entitles them to certain rights and benefits — a rarity for the industry — many say it’s difficult to qualify for the company’s health insurance. To do so, teachers have to lead at least ten classes per week, but for most, the standard is prohibitively onerous. No one interviewed by the Cut currently has insurance through YogaWorks. “You’re in the wellness industry, your job is about health, and yet your own health is not supported or guaranteed in any way,” said the anonymous woman.

Sounds like capitalism to me! An if they are ever going to qualify for that health insurance, they’d have to hand over more of their biological and medical information to their employer and its insurance provider every year.

The days of mass organizing campaigns to take care of auto and steel in one fell swoop are over. Those kind of workplaces don’t exist anymore. But there are huge numbers of workplaces with smaller numbers of extremely unsatisfied workers and they are increasingly looking for unions or anything else to help them out of the morass of the New Gilded Age. How to make all of this led to significantly renewed labor strength is a whole other question and there’s no easy answer. But at least the desire for unionization by a whole lot of people in previously non-union fields is pretty undeniable.

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